A method, radio receiver, and system to autonomously receive and decode a plurality of signals having a variety of signal types without a priori knowledge of the defining characteristics of the signals is disclosed. The radio receiver is capable of receiving a signal of an unknown signal type and, by estimating one or more defining characteristics of the signal, determine the type of signal. The estimated defining characteristic(s) is/are utilized to enable the receiver to determine other defining characteristics. This in turn, enables the receiver, through multiple iterations, to make a maximum-likelihood (ML) estimate for each of the defining characteristics. After the type of signal is determined by its defining characteristics, the receiver selects an appropriate decoder from a plurality of decoders to decode the signal.